From the discomfort Zone: The legalities of prostitution

HRD Ministry survey reveals that prostitution is increasing and 60 per cent of girls belong to SC, ST, BC and two-thirds of prostitute families live below the poverty line.

"Respect and save women" is the battle cry I've been advocating to fight heinous sex crimes against women. A government-commissioned study, in which 9,500 sex workers were interviewed in 31 states in India, found that over 35 per cent sex workers entered prostitution between ages 12 and 18 a crime arising from deception, poverty, ignorance and violence inflicted on women.

France is now criminalising buyers of sex. Since last week's column, the National Assembly (Lower House of Parliament) has voted to make prostitution purchase illegal. The fine was set at 1,500, doubled if repeated. Customers have to attend a training course on prostitution and if websites hosted abroad contravene the French law, ISPs must block access to their service. At the same time this law will "decriminalise the prostitute" by annulling a "passive soliciting" offence introduced by a previous conservative administration. This Bill is expected be passed by the French Senate next June.

The profile of sex workers in France has drastically changed. Twenty years ago, 20 per cent were foreigners. Today 90 per cent are trafficked into France from Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and China, mostly by prostitution rings. Last year, 51 human-trafficking networks were closed and 572 pimps arrested in France. "I don't want a society in which women have a price," said Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France's Minister for Women's Rights. She said women working the streets are "bought and sold, swapped, detained, raped and tortured, deceived, trafficked, despoiled. It's a system that generates $40 billion a year, benefitting mainly those who are trafficking people and drugs". She hopes the new law will protect these women subjected to violence as it decriminalises soliciting and offers them help and an exit-route.

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